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Jens Randel Nyengaard

Estimation of the number of alveolar capillaries by the Euler number (Euler-Poincaré characteristic)

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  • Alper Willführ
  • ,
  • Christina Brandenberger, Denmark
  • Tanja Piatkowski, Denmark
  • Roman Grothausmann, Denmark
  • Jens Randel Nyengaard
  • Matthias Ochs
  • ,
  • Christian Mühlfeld

The lung parenchyma provides a maximal surface area of blood-containing capillaries that are in close contact with a large surface area of the air-containing alveoli. Volume and surface area of capillaries are the classic stereological parameters to characterize the alveolar capillary network (ACN) and have provided essential structure-function information of the lung. When loss (rarefaction) or gain (angiogenesis) of capillaries occurs, these parameters may not be sufficient to provide mechanistic insight. Therefore, it would be desirable to estimate the number of capillaries, as it contains more distinct and mechanistically oriented information. Here, we present a new stereological method to estimate the number of capillary loops in the ACN. One advantage of this method is that it is independent of the shape, size, or distribution of the capillaries. We used consecutive, 1 μm-thick sections from epoxy resin-embedded material as a physical disector. The Euler-Poincaré characteristic of capillary networks can be estimated by counting the easily recognizable topological constellations of "islands," "bridges," and "holes." The total number of capillary loops in the ACN can then be calculated from the Euler-Poincaré characteristic. With the use of the established estimator of alveolar number, it is possible to obtain the mean number of capillary loops per alveolus. In conclusion, estimation of alveolar capillaries by design-based stereology is an efficient and unbiased method to characterize the ACN and may be particularly useful for studies on emphysema, pulmonary hypertension, or lung development.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology: Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Pages (from-to)L1286-93
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015

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